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Podium For Wilks On Peugeot UK Debut

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Guy Wilks concluded his debut event for Peugeot UK with a podium finish on the centenary edition of the Monte Carlo Rally.

The team was eager for the rally to go well, due to the fact that previous driver Kris Meeke had crashed out on both of Peugeot UK's previous starts at the Monte Carlo Rally. Wilks, along with co-driver Phil Pugh conducted two days of testing in the local area prior to the rally, in order to try and acquaint themselves with their new Peugeot 207 Super 2000 machine.

When the event got underway for real, the pairing were thrown in at the deep end for their Peugeot UK debut. The starting order for the opening day's stages was determined by reversing the top ten seeds on the rally's entry list. With Wilks and Pugh carrying the number 10 on the side of their car, they would have to open the rally.

Despite this pressure, Wilks set an impressive time on the opening 36.87 km stage – enough to put the British pairing third on the leaderboard. As he got more comfortable in the car, Wilks set solid times on the opening day's remaining three stages to return to service in Valence fifth overall.

Wilks had dropped to sixth following the second day's opening pair of stages. However, at midday service all of the crews had tough decisions to make regarding their choice of tyres for the two afternoon repeat stages. Snow had begun to fall on the stages, but with it not looking particularly heavy the majority of crews – including Peugeot UK – opted to not take studded tyres, instead fitting standard winter tyres.

However, the weather conditions were changing so rapidly that the stages were covered in heavy snow by the time the crews reached them. Wilks had not yet driven the Peugeot on snow – and now faced his first drive on snow on tyres that were not really suitable for the conditions.

Despite this, he made it through the stage setting the third quickest time, losing just 24.8 seconds to the stage winner. All five of the drivers who had been ahead of Wilks on the overall stage prior to the stage lost even more time than Wilks did. This turned the leaderboard on its head, promoting Bryan Bouffier from seventh to first by virtue of winning the stage. Wilks and Pugh climbed one position to fifth, just behind previous rally leader Juho Hanninen.

With the snow continuing to fall, the day's closing stage would be another treacherous stage for those on the wrong tyres. With Francois Delecour having been the only one of the leading crews to have selected fully-studded tyres, the Frenchman set the fastest time on the stage and finished the day second overall. Wilks was impressive again, setting the fourth fastest time, moving him up to fourth overall at the end of the second day.

He successfully negotiated the opening stage of the final day, setting the third fastest time. The rally would conclude with four stages to be run in the evening near Monte Carlo, featuring the legendary Col de Turini.

Following the service break in Monte Carlo in between the two pairs of evening stages, Wilks had closed the gap to third-placed Delecour to just over five seconds. Although he closed this gap to 2.7 seconds on the penultimate test, he had slipped to fifth overall after Stephane Sarrazin had jumped the pair of them by setting the fastest stage time.

On the final stage Wilks was once again faster than Delecour – enough to lift him ahead of the veteran and into fourth.

One further change on the leaderboard lay in wait for Wilks at final service in Monte Carlo, as Sarrazin checked into service late – giving him a 30 second time penalty and promoting fellow Peugeot driver Wilks to third overall. This gave Wilks and Pugh a podium on their debut rally for Peugeot UK and a great start to their Intercontinental Rally Challenge campaign.

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